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Trade and Investment (Africa)

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 3 December 2013

2. What recent steps his Department has taken to promote trade and investment opportunities for British firms operating in Africa. (901369)

Boosting trade and investment is one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s major priorities in Africa. We have strengthened commercial teams throughout the region. Last month I launched high-level prosperity partnerships with Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania. That combines expertise from the Department for International Development, UK Trade & Investment, the FCO and the private sector to create a paradigm shift in the UK’s trade relationship with those five countries.

Does the Minister agree that with growth rates of up to 8%, a population of 1 billion and a combined GDP of around $2 trillion, and with sub-Saharan Africa being the second-fastest growing region in the world, trade is an effective alternative to aid and strengthens diplomatic ties?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Six of the world’s top-10 fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa. Certainly, among the main focuses of African Governments are economic development and growth, wealth and job creation. They are becoming more determined to stimulate economic growth as a major focus in alleviating poverty. We need to ensure that, in addition to building trade and investment co-operation we assist in building Government capacity and ensure that UK businesses are aware of the significant opportunities that exist in sub-Saharan Africa.

Obtaining investment is vital to Africa. What actions is the Department taking to encourage trade and investment specifically in northern Nigeria, which seems to be left out on many occasions?

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the challenges that are being faced in northern Nigeria. I was there earlier in the year and saw some of the excellent work that is being done in trying to alleviate some of the conflicts and to encourage co-operation between the various religious groups. I also saw some of the work that the Department for International Development is doing to build capacity in terms of providing services and trying to create the security and stability that is the precursor to economic investment and development.

I congratulate the Minister on the work that the Government are doing, particularly through the FCO working with UKTI in promoting trade around the world. Does he agree that Kenya and east Africa is a particularly important market for us where we may be able better to integrate our DFID aid work and our UKTI and FCO trade work? I was there this summer, and have been there in recent years, and one sees that Kenya is on the front line of the global race, with corruption and with progressive British capitalism based in Nairobi.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that Kenya is a major trading partner for the United Kingdom. Significant UK businesses are already investing in Kenya. Only this morning I spoke to open the UKTI Kenya conference at Mansion House in the City of London, which was extremely well attended. In addition to the obvious focus on the financial services sector, we need to focus on a whole range of areas and economic sectors where the UK has particular expertise, such as the automotive industries.

Usually diplomatic networks are used to promote trade and export by celebrating national days, but a survey over the weekend showed that of 20 UK diplomatic and consular postings, not a single one was doing anything to celebrate St Andrew’s day. Why was that?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the UK diplomatic missions around the world, particularly in Africa, do everything they can to promote all UK businesses, including Scottish businesses that go on UK trade missions. When I was in South Africa I promoted a Scottish trade mission to secure work for businesses in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom.

In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Prime Minister signed an agreement to increase trade between Nigeria and the UK. Will the Minister update us on how that is progressing, particularly in certain business sectors?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the Prime Minister and President Jonathan stipulated that trade needs to increase significantly by 2015. We are on track to meet those targets, not just in the obvious oil and gas and extractive sectors but across a whole range of economic sectors, particularly as in southern Nigeria the levels of affluence mean that the Nigerian middle class is growing. That is creating huge opportunities for businesses in the consumer and creative arts sectors, and that is something that our missions are supporting.